Religion is a system that debates have been had about for centuries now. Some people believe it to be good and other disagree. Research has been done to support claims of the benefits of religious affiliation. According to Rodney Stark and Jared Maier of Baylor University and a study done at the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, there is a positive correlation between faith or religious affiliation and "happiness." According to WIN-Gallop International, the more secular a county is, the more wealth that country has. And according to Dr. Nigel Barber, Ph.D. of Hunter College, religious affiliation has a positive correlation with health. None of this research can prove causation, but the correlation between religion and these other aspects of life should not be ignored because they are not coincidental.
Studies regarding the effects of religion seem to only focus on certain groups of people and specific places. But from observation and experience, it seems that the new generation of young adults has a different outlook on religion and spirituality. A generation of people becoming less and less religious, but not necessarily non-spiritual, or simply leaving religion and spirituality behind all together is growing. Many of these people can be considered non-religious because they do not affiliate with any one religion. I am interested in knowing if the previous studies done on the effects of being religious or non-religious will be consistent with this newer generation of people.
In this project, I plan to add to the conversation of the effects of religious affiliation by doing in-depth interviews with a select number of people who have changed from being religiously affiliated to none affiliated and with people who consider themselves to be spiritual but not religious. Are the correlations between religious affiliation and aspects of well-being consistent with those who are spiritual as opposed to religious? Are religious people truly "happier?" And are these studies an accurate representation of people of the current generation?